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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 2

14 January, 2018

Sadly, there was a robbery at St Peter's early in the New Year. You may have already noticed that the statue of St Peter attached to the lectern, and the wooden cross on the font cover, have both been taken; as well as a brass candle holder in the old baptistry. I have reported the robbery to the police, and we have retrieved some footage from our new CCTV security system, but unfortunately we have not yet apprehended the thief or found the stolen items. If they are not returned, we have plenty of photos of what they look like, so will be able to replicate them and hopefully be covered by insurance.

At times like this, the old question always rears its head: should we close the church outside of Mass times? A couple of years ago in response to a similar incident we put a lot of effort into reestablishing a Church-Sitters roster, to keep the church open; but there were only a handful of parishioners who volunteered and it was discontinued after a few months. So we decided to keep the church open anyway, under the watch of security cameras; but even still things have gone missing. What are we to do?

A couple of things come to mind. Firstly, our Lord's teaching from Matthew 6:28-30. It concerns personal clothing, but could be applied to the "clothing" of our church furniture and trappings: "Consider the lilies of the field ... if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith?" This is not about being careless or sloppy; we are not! Clothing, vestments, church ornamentation, security, these things all matter to us as a church. But ultimately the question to ask is this: what is most important? Jesus' teaching is about faith not materiality. Faith matters, our compassion and care for those in need matters. A few verses earlier we read (6:20-21): "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The second thought came from our Bookroom Manager, Carol. She was reflecting on the robbery too, and came across these words in Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (2013; paras 46-7): "A Church which 'goes forth' is a Church whose doors are open ... we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door ... the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems."

So, no, we will not be closing our doors. We will continue to take good care of our material church possessions, but above all we will keep our church doors (and our hearts) open as we go forth into the world and proclaim the gospel of Christ in word and action.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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